George de Forest Brush was born in Shelbyville, Tennessee but spent most of his childhood in Connecticut - where his father captained a whaling vessel. When the family moved to Ohio in 1871, the young man went to New York City to study at the National Academy of Design (he had been encouraged in this by his mother, an amatuer artist). Four years later he traveled to France, where he spent six years at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He also made a brief stay in Florence. When he returned to the states in his late 20s, he began several years' travel among Native American Indian tribes. He became an authoratative recorder of their customs and lives, and also became an ardent advocate for their rights.